bentrovato (bentrovato) wrote,
bentrovato
bentrovato

Göttingen

We drove today to Göttingen to visit Jürgen's sister and her family. Before leaving we went to the cemetery in Northeim where Oma is buried. I was glad to pay my respects to her, brave and generous woman that she was. Her grave is decorated with rocks to commemorate her travels and with moss, the tiny white flowers of which open in sunlight. The cemetery itself was extraordinary - a real gathering place on a sunny Sunday. It was well tended and each plot had enough room around it to give families the opportunity to individualize the markers and grounds. There were wide gravel paths so one didn't have to step on others' memorials to get anywhere. I noticed a few names on headstones that I had seen in the names of stores in town. Most of the graves were from the last twenty or thirty years. Here lay, no doubt, the informants for William Allen's community study of Northeim, The Nazi Seizure of Power. I had read the first half of the book, which describes how the NSDAP came to power in Northeim. The people here born in the 1890s, veterans of the Great War, participated in those events. Allen said the acquiescence of the middle class was essential to the rise of the Nazis. The bourgeoisie lost faith in democracy. They feared the socialists more than they loved liberty and were trapped once the ultra-nationalists took over. The next generation - born in this century - would pay the price for serving the state thus formed.

As a special favor, Simon took me to Göttingen in his little two-seater, a FIAT convertible. We drove on the Autobahn, reaching speeds of 200km/hr. Signs zip by pretty quickly and the wind roars in one's ears at that speed. The driver needs to look far ahead in order to have time to react. I took care not to distract him on those parts of the drive.

We spent the afternoon with Jürgen's sister, Barbara, who is an assistant professor at the Georg-August Universität Göttingen. She and her husband and her two children made us feel welcome. Andreas amazed us with apparently serious talk of participating in an ultra-ultra marathon that starts in Death Valley and ends 130 miles away, atop Mt. Whitney (elev 8360 ft.) If he really does it, I want to be there to shake his hand.

Barbara made us goulash that was so good we didn't mind having it again so soon. While we ate the children played outside. (Children view meals as refueling stops, not as events to enjoy in themselves.) At one point Patrick let out a cry and I found him on the ground with another child sitting on him. He had let the play go to the point where he was actually hurt. He withdrew from the group for a while. Later I saw he enjoyed the company of Barbara's daughter. She's a bright girl, just about his size. The children made up their differences quickly and chased pigeons amiably together in town later in the day.

Barbara began our walking tour of the university and town in the Botanical Gardens. I was especially touched that she went out of her way to pay attention to Sarah. As the oldest child she often withdrew from the activities of the other children and did not join the adults. The goal of our walk was the St. Jacobi-Kirche, where we climbed up, up, up the ladder-like stairs of the bell tower. The view from the top was marvelous. All the Germans in our group had lived for some part of their lives in Göttingen, so they pointed out many places of personal or historical significance. The descent was considerably more challenging, and I found myself thinking, as I had at the mines, "This would never be allowed in the USA." Oh well, our good luck to experience it here. Back to the house for cherry pie and then back to Northeim (Autobahn again!) for the big game: Germany-Spain for the European championship.

As things turned out, it was good not to have seen the match at a public viewing place. Observing Fußball Fieber was fun, but observing without sharing in the dejection of defeat would have seemed like an intrusion. Viewing it in una casa dividida was not as tense as I feared. Yes, Alfredo and Merche cheered inversely from everyone else. Anabel tried to make peace in the first half, but then was cheering for Germany in the second. Jürgen and Simon analyzed and cheered and had to admit that Spain was the better team, though they complained about a foul missed by the umpire on Spain's striker on the play leading to the game's only goal.
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